Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

The persuasive, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one guy’s coming of age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of independence that followed
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mom at a time when such an union was punishable by five years in prison. Trevor was kept largely indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the often absurd and excessive measures his mother took to conceal him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mom set forth on a grand experience, living openly and freely and embracing the chances won by a centuries-long battle.
It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving automobile during an attempted kidnapping, or simply attempting to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with unflinching truthfulness and an incisive wit. His storylines weave together to form a moving and searingly amusing portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, equipped merely with a sharp sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.
Advance praise for Born a Crime
“[A] substantial collection of staggering personal essays . . . Incisive, funny, and vivid, these true tales are anchored to his portrait of his courageous, rebellious, and religious mother who defied racially restrictive laws to secure an education and a career for herself—and to have a child with a white Swiss/German even though sex between whites and blacks was illegal. . . . [Trevor Noah’s] electrifying memoir sparkles with funny stories . . . and his candid and compassionate essays deepen our perception of the complexities of race, gender, and class.”Booklist (starred review)
“A gritty memoir . . . studded with insight and provocative social criticism . . . with flashes of brilliant storytelling and acute observations.”Kirkus Reviews

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